Patricia Louise Holte (born May 24 1944) best known as her stage name Patti Labelle, is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter and actress. She fronted two groups, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles and Labelle. She is best known for her passionate stage performances, wide vocal range and distinctive high-octave belting. Her biography, Don't Block the Blessings, remained at the top of the The New York Times best-seller list for several weeks.
As Patsy Holte, LaBelle formed a four-member girl group called the Ordettes in 1958. In 1959, when two of the original Ordettes left, Holt and fellow Ordette Sandra Tucker brought in singers Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. When Tucker's family made Sandra leave the group, she was replaced by Cindy Birdsong. With her mother's blessings, Patti left high school to tour with the Ordettes. The group was managed by Bernard Montague and toured from local nightclubs to honky tonks and truck stops.
Two years passed until the girls auditioned for Blue Note Records. The president at the time nearly passed on the group upon seeing the lead singer was Patti, or "Patsy" as friends and family called her, whom he had said didn't fit the traits of a traditionally beautiful lead singer. This all changed as soon as Patti started singing. The president signed them to the label under two conditions: The Ordettes were now the Bluebelles and Patricia "Patsy" Holte would be given a new name: Patti LaBelle. The name was changed again to Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles after the manager of the group who had the same name threatened a lawsuit.
In 1965, the group signed to Atlantic Records and scored what later became Patti's signature song with their version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Her gospel-inspired, sometimes overly dramatic rendition ends each of her shows and climaxes with her throwing a microphone stand into the wings of the stage as she belts the final note. Around this time, LaBelle was engaged to be married to Temptations member Otis Williams, but the couple called off the engagement because of their conflicting touring schedules. The next year, LaBelle, Dash & Hendryx received a shock when Cindy Birdsong left to join The Supremes, replacing Florence Ballard. It would be years before Birdsong and the group began to speak again. After Cindy Birdsong left the group, Patti, Nona, Sarah found themselves in a rut, but the group continued to tour around the country.
In 1974, when they became aware that they had attracted a cult following, the group again revamped their image - now sporting space-like, "rockish" hair and uniforms. Their new songs were about sex, space, politics, and things that many other contemporary funk and rock bands were singing about, but with a difference - no female groups had dared to tackle this type of controversial material. In October of that year, they were the first African-American contemporary act to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. That December they released their most successful record, Nightbirds, featuring their breakout hit, "Lady Marmalade," which hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1975, helping Nightbirds to go gold. None of their subsequent albums would have quite the same success, although Phoenix and Chameleon were hailed by music critics as experimental and groundbreaking. At a certain point Patti began having artistic differences with other members of the group; she was especially unhappy with the songs that Nona Hendryx was writing. While they continued to sell out concerts around the world, Labelle's record sales were decreasing. Nevertheless, the 1975 album, Phoenix, sold 1 million copies because of songs like "Black Holes In The Sky", "Messin' With My Mind", and "Action Time". They received critical acclaim for the lyrics that Nona Hendryx wrote.
By the time of her rise to pop stardom in the mid-1980s, LaBelle was infamous for her wild hairdos, kicking off her shoes in a "Holy Ghost"-like rage, rolling over the floor while singing, putting the microphone stand down and then yielding it up in the air and choreographing the famous "spread my wings" move that she incorporated during her performances of "Over the Rainbow." Patti's appearance at the Motown Returns to the Apollo and Live Aid concert in 1985 introduced her to a whole new audience. During the finale of Live Aid, Patti took to the microphone for "We Are the World," during some points of which Patti's voice is the only one audible. She was also accused of taking the spot light from Diana Ross as revenge in a rumoured rivalry during a performance of "I Want To Know What Love Is" known as the infamous mic toss. As a result, Patti was often accused of grandstanding. Patti later Defended herself saying that she has a big voice and people have to be aware that she is going to use it. In 1986, she released her best-selling album to date with Winner in You. The album yielded her first solo #1, "On My Own" with pop balladeer Michael McDonald, the Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit, "Oh, People," the moderate pop chart hit, "Kiss Away The Pain" and the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart hit, "Something Special Is Gonna Happen Tonight."
Patti entered the 1990s on a high but not without tragedy. In July 1989, she lost her third sister Jackie to cancer. Patti's two elder sisters had similar fates, with her oldest sister Vivian dying in 1977 (at the height of LaBelle's success) and the second-eldest sister Barbara, dying in 1982 from colon cancer. Her brother, father and mother also passed away around the same time, making Patti the only living member of her extended family while being the mother of six kids - one of her own, three of one of her sisters' children and two adopted - and wife of Armstead Edwards (married since 1969), who had become her manager.
LaBelle herself was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. She is a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association, and has published two cookbooks targeted at people with diabetes, containing low-sugar and low-fat recipes. In 2005, LaBelle began appearing in advertisements for OneTouch Ultra and later for OneTouch Ultra2, a manufacturer of blood glucose monitoring systems for people with diabetes.
In 1991, Patti released the gold-selling Burnin' album, which helped her win her first Grammy Award for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. Burnin' featured the hits "Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)", "When You've Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven)" and "Feels Like Another One." That album is also notable because it includes the first Labelle reunion recording with Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, on the track "Release Yourself". That success continued onto subsequent albums like 1994's Gems (featuring the hit "The Right Kinda Lover"), 1997's Flame (featuring the hit "When You Talk About Love"), and 1998's Live One Night Only (which won her a second Grammy).
On February 6 2003, she performed "Way Up There" at a memorial service in honour of the astronauts lost in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which was held at the Washington National Cathedral and attended by Vice President Dick Cheney among others. Patti was nominated for a Grammy for this tune, but lost to her friend Aretha Franklin. She also released a vibrant single of the cut. On July 22 of the same year, she sang the "Ave Maria" at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral during the funeral of the Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz.
The year 2004 saw the release of Timeless Journey, which debuted at #16, making it LaBelle's highest charting album in eighteen years. Songs on the album include "2 Steps Away" and "When You Smile", a tribute song for Celia Cruz featuring Spanish language artists Carlos Santana, Andy Vargas, and La India. She scored modest hits with "New Day", "More Than Material" and, "Gotta Go Solo", a duet with Ronald Isley which peaked at #31 on the R&B chart. Patti also performed during the Divas Concert Live. Patti LaBelle New Day Club Mixes was released to DJs for club play and reached #1 on the Top Played Songs in the clubs and #11 on the US Dance charts.
In mid-2005, she released Classic Moments, a cover album featuring tracks made popular by other artists. LaBelle has often performed some of her favorite songs by other singers in her concerts. The album featured such songs as "I Can't Make You Love Me", the lead single, "Ain't No Way" (featuring Mary J Blige), "I'll Stand By You", "Land of the Living" (with singer-songwriter Kristine W.), and "Your Song" (featuring Elton John). Shortly after the release of the album, Labelle was dropped from her label. Reports of conflicts with label head Antonio "L.A." Reid were blamed for the dissolution, as well as an event where several high-profile stars abruptly backed out of appearances at a televised 60th birthday celebration for LaBelle.
Patti also appeared on Extreme Makeover where she sang "Stand by You" at a candlelight vigil.
While appearing as a guest on the show Martha on December 23, 2005, Patti LaBelle announced that she is reuniting with Labelle. She was among those honoured by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball. She is also playing Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray on Broadway.
In June 2006, a previously unreleased BlueBelles track was unearthed and released on an Atlantic compilation CD, "Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters". The name of the track is "(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days". LaBelle also appeared in the movie preaching to the choir as Sister Jasmine the Choir Director. LaBelle sang four songs for the album, including "Going to My Father's House", "How I Got Over" and "Preaching to the Choir" with Labelle. Patti also appears on the soundtrack to Chicken Little where she duets one of her old songs, "Stir It Up", with Joss Stone .
In November 2006, LaBelle paid tribute to Dusty Springfield, singing a tribute to her at the UK Music Hall of Fame at Alexandra Palace, London.
On November 21 2006, The Gospel According To Patti LaBelle was released. As a promotion, all copies sold at Wal-Mart have a bonus track, "The Lord's Prayer". The Gospel According To Patti LaBelle debuted at #86 on the Billboard 200, #17 on the R&B chart and #1 on the Gospel Albums chart. The unit sales of the first week tallied up to 18,000 units sold. Earlier in 2006, LaBelle performed at the 2006 Super Bowl Gospel Celebration.
LaBelle was prominently featured alongside Fantasia and Yolanda Adams on the remake of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish", on the soundtrack to "Happy Feet". LaBelle will also be featured on "What About Love", the lead track from the soundtrack to The Color Purple: The Musical.
On March 26 2007, LaBelle was honoured with an Excellence in Media Award by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for her life-long work for gay and lesbian rights and participation in the fight against AIDS.
LaBelle is also said to be recording a new album with Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, together as the reformed LaBelle, with help from Lenny Kravitz. They will be in the recording process this year and will possibly be on the road next year.
On June 26 2007, LaBelle gave a teary eulogy on the late Gerald Levert. Patti LaBelle alongside Gladys Knight, Yolanda Adams and Eddie Levert paid tribute to Levert at the 2007 BET Awards singing "Wind Beneath My Wings", a favourite song of his which he sang often in his own concerts.
According to a message Ms. LaBelle posted on her official website, she has currently re-signed with Def Jam after being dropped by L.A. Reid in 2005. Reid decided he had made a mistake and offered her another deal, which she took a few months to decide upon but eventually accepted. She has since released a Christmas album produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and James "Big Jim" Wright. The album, titled "Miss Patti's Christmas", was released October 9 2007 and was due to feature a guest appearance from Mariah Carey; however, this Mariah Carey track did not make the CD.
On October 20, 2007 LaBelle appeared as a surprise guest (with Whitney Houston, who introduced Patti) on the Swarovski Fashion Rocks for the Princes Trust Concert, singing a unique rendition of "Lady Marmalade" alongside the Sugababes for the finale of the concert in London, England. This was her first televised UK show since the early 70's
On November 4 2007, the World Music Awards paid tribute to 63-year-old LaBelle for her enduring contribution to R&B. LaBelle sang a rendition of "Lady Marmalade" at the event with Shaggy. "I love this show because it unites the world with music; we need peace in the world," LaBelle said. Mary J. Blige considers her, "the diva of all divas and the voice touched and blessed by God."
In January 2008, Miss Patti launched her own wig line, The Patti LaBelle Collection by Especially Yours.
In March 2008, LaBelle appeared as the Keynote speaker at the 14th Annual Women's Empowerment Expo in Raleigh, NC. .
In May 2008, LaBelle performed at the "Divas with Heart" concert alongside Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross. Ross was the finale performer, and after she left the stage, LaBelle, Khan and Knight returned to the stage to sing "Lean on Me". Ross did not join them, while former LaBelle members Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx did. In July of 2008 Labelle performed at the Essence Music Festival during a tribute for Patti singing "Isn't It A Shame."
Tours: Flame Tour 1997-1997
She was also recognized September the 14th at the UNCF An Evening of the Stars.
|U.S. Hot 100||U.S. R&B||UK||South African Singles Chart|
|1962||"I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" (with The Blue Belles)||15||13||—||1||Sweethearts of the Apollo|
|1963||"Down the Aisle" (with The Blue Belles)||37||14||—||1|
|1964||"You'll Never Walk Alone" (with The Blue Belles)||34||34||—||1|
|1965||"Danny Boy" (with The Blue Belles)||76||4||—||1|
|1966||"All or Nothing" (with The Blue Belles)||68||—||—||1||Over the Rainbow|
|1967||"Take Me for a Little While" (with The Blue Belles)||89||36||—||1||Dreamer|
|1975||"Lady Marmalade" (with Labelle)||1||1||17||1||Nightbirds|
|"What Can I Do for You?" (with Labelle)||48||8||-||1|
|"Messin' With My Mind" (with Labelle)||—||—||-||1||Phoenix|
|1976||"Get You Somebody New" (with Labelle)||—||50||—||1||Chameleon|
|1977||"Isn't It a Shame?" (with Labelle)||—||18||—||1|
|"Joy to Have Your Love"||—||11||—||1||Patti Labelle|
|"Dan Swit Me"||—||—||-||1|
|1978||"You Are My Friend"||—||61||—||1|
|1979||"Music Is My Way of Life"||—||81||-||1||It's Alright with Me|
|"It's Alright with Me"||—||34||—||1|
|1980||"Release (the Tension)"||—||—||-||1||Released|
|"I Don't Go Shopping"||—||26||—||1|
|1981||"The Spirit's in It"||—||—||-||1||The Spirit's in It|
|1983||"I'll Never, Never Give Up"||—||—||-||1||I'm in Love Again|
|1984||"If Only You Knew"||46||1||—||1|
|"Love Has Finally Come at Last" (with Bobby Womack)||88||3||—||10||The Poet 2|
|1985||"New Attitude"||17||3||-||1||Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack|
|"Stir It Up"||41||5||-||3|
|1986||"On My Own" (with Michael McDonald)||1||1||2||2||Winner in You|
|"Kiss Away the Pain"||—||13||—||3|
|1987||"Something Special (Is Gonna Happen Tonight)"||—||50||-||7|
|"Just the Facts"||—||34||—||8||Dragnet|
|1989||"If You Asked Me To"||79||10||—||1||Licence to Kill soundtrack and Be Yourself|
|"Yo Mister"||—||6||-||1||Be Yourself|
|1990||"I Can't Complain"||—||65||—||4|
|1991||"Feels Like Another One"||—||3||-||6||Burnin'|
|"Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)"||—||2||—||1|
|1992||"All Right Now"||—||30||—||6||Patti LaBelle Live|
|"When You've Been Blessed (Feels like Heaven)"||—||4||—||1||Burnin|
|1994||"The Right Kind of Lover"||61||8||50||5||Gems|
|"All This Love"||—||42||—||20|
|1995||"Turn It Out" (with Labelle)||—||—||-||5||To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar soundtrack|
|"I Never Stopped Loving You"||—||67||—||1||Gems|
|1997||"When You Talk About Love"||56||12||-||1||Flame|
|1998||"Shoe Was on the Other Foot"||—||—||-||1|
|2004||"New Day"||93||36||-||1||Timeless Journey|
|"Gotta Go Solo" (featuring Ronald Isley)||89||31||—||5||Gotta Go Solo (single)|
|2005||"Ain't No Way" (feat. Mary J. Blige)||—||62||—||1||Classic Moments|
|2006||"Where Love Begins" (feat. Yolanda Adams)||—||68||—||1||''The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle"|